Syrian FM makes first visit to Saudi Arabia since 2011

Visit the latest sign of a move towards a restoration of relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia, as al-Assad comes in from the cold.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad
Mekdad arrived in Jeddah after receiving an invitation from Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, both Saudi and Syrian state media reported [File - Natalia Kolesnikova/EPA]

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has arrived for a visit to Saudi Arabia, as ties between Damascus and Riyadh grow, and a restoration of relations between the two Arab countries becomes increasingly likely.

Mekdad arrived in Jeddah on Wednesday having been invited by the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, both Saudi and Syrian state media reported.

The two will “hold a session of talks on efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis that preserves the unity, security and stability of Syria”, the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

They will also discuss “facilitating the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, and securing humanitarian access to the affected areas in Syria”, the statement added.

The visit is the first by a Syrian foreign minister to Saudi Arabia since 2011, when the war in Syria began. Saudi Arabia supported the Syrian opposition, but ties have thawed in recent months.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has largely defeated the opposition with Russian and Iranian backing.

Over the past few months, there has been increasing engagement with al-Assad, who has been isolated since the start of the Syrian war.

Al-Assad has visited the UAE and Oman this year, and last month Saudi Arabia said it has started talks with Damascus about resuming consular services.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia will host a meeting of regional foreign ministers on Friday to discuss the return of Syria to the Arab League.

Saudi state media reported last month that discussions were being held between Damascus and Riyadh to resume consular services, after media reports emerged of a possible restoration of ties.

Diplomatic efforts have gained momentum since Saudi Arabia agreed to a rapprochement with Iran, a key ally of the Syrian government, last month.

Source: News Agencies